Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eight Month Turn-Around

A few readers may recall last fall, when I was contemplating using my Dean hardtail for the Ironcross race, I noticed the frame was cracked. I shipped the frame back to Dean for repair in October. They offer a lifetime guarantee on their frames.

A couple months went by and I hadn't heard anything. So I called them before the holidays. They said work was starting and I should see my frame back in January. Towards the end of January, I repeatedly tried to get through to Dean to no avail. When I finally did get through in early February, it was clear they hadn't touched my frame yet. Now I was a bit perturbed, as that is the bike I normally travel with, and Dave Penney and I had a trip to Arizona coming up.

I kept calling. I'm sure they have caller ID there, so when they saw that 603 area code, they knew better than to pick up the phone. Some days I called 6 or 8 times. Then I'd give up and a week would go by. I got through again in March I believe, and I got some story that the repair was started but they had to wait for a welding fixture. I got more stories in April and May. One time my frame was queued up for something that was supposedly done already. It was prime riding season and I wanted my longtime favorite ride back.

Then I broke my leg and it took away some of my motivation to hound Dean, but I still picked up the phone a couple times a week. Finally, they told me it was done last week and it would ship on Friday. I was extremely skeptical, as I was promised a tracking number via email that I never received. So I was surprised when Cathy called me today to ask what I ordered. My frame was finally back, nearly eight months after I shipped it to Dean for repair.

Needless to say, Dean's customer support needs major work. They build a fine frame. I wouldn't have purchased five frames from them over the years if I didn't think they fabricated a fine product. But I probably wouldn't buy another frame from them after this experience. A frame repair should never take eight months, and frame builders should stick to fabricating frames, not stories about repair progress.

New top tube, burnishing and decal kit makes it look brand new.

My returned frame looks fabulous. It has a new top tube with nicer cable guides on it, everything freshly burnished, and a new decal kit. The cracks started on both sides of the top tube and went into the seat tube. Dean cut out the top five inches of seat tube and spliced in a new piece. Cosmetically, I think this looks fine. The one issue I have with it is my seat post ends right at the welded splice. I've seen seat tubes fail here before, and I don't need to exacerbate another frame failure. I will probably buy the long Thompson seat post that goes about halfway down the seat tube to alleviate these concerns.

Closeup of the spliced in seat tube.

I used to think titanium was infallible. Not anymore. I've seen too many Ti frames fail, even from the best builders. Like any alloy, if you fatigue it enough, it will eventually fail. My Dean Colonel hardtail has the most riding hours of any mountain bike I own. It was 9 years old when it failed. Ti is still much more resilient than aluminum alloys, and probably more robust than fly weight carbon frames too.

It was just as well that Dave and I did not take hardtails to Tucson this spring. We brought dualies instead.  It allowed us to do some pretty long, rugged rides that surely would have left us beat up for the next day's ride had we ridden hardtails.

I'll probably wait to build the bike back up until after I see the orthopedist on Monday. I'm hoping he'll clear me for limited weight bearing, which will make it much easier to wrench while not perched on crutches.


plum said...

Great information.

As the market is now overloaded with choices, and many of them excellent from a quality perspective, the differentiator simply has to be customer service. The amount of effort invested on your end is amazing and sad.

Certainly not a story I'll forget, and unfortunately a story that will get passed along each time I hear the name "Dean". That's just the way it works.

Il Bruce said...

5 bikes and they treat you this way?


Good customer service goes a long way, bad customer service goes even further.

Heal up quick

Jonny Bold said...

The frame AND your ankle are looking much better these days. Glad to see the healing is going so well. The DEAN build should give you a nice vehicle toward spending time with the bike. Promise me when you're good to go we'll do a trail of tears ride some time. Maybe in the winter.

Dave said...

sucks about the frame and more about the Dean customer service. ever seen a lugged steel frame fail in this manner? My thinking is that for the weight difference of a burrito I would rather commission a lugged high end steel frame build than get a Ti,Al, or crabon fibre frame that is less likely to last my lifetime. and the leg looks much better.

Nicole said...

Noted. As a one-bike-per-genre owner, I can't afford bike-wise to send one off for months and not have it.

Admittedly, though, being a beginner mountain biker and having never heard of Dean, there wasn't much chance of me finding myself purchasing one of their titanium frames.